...but there is still much more to be done to make the criminal justice system open and transparent
Television cameras will be allowed to broadcast from Crown Courts in England and Wales for the first time, following draft legislation due to be laid by the Government today (16 January).
The Crown Court (Recording and Broadcasting) Order 2020 will allow cameras to broadcast the sentencing remarks of High Court and Senior Circuit judges in some of the most high-profile courts across the country, including the Old Bailey.
Proceedings are currently broadcast from certain Court of Appeal cases. Extending this to the Crown Court means the public will be able to hear judges explain the reasons behind their sentences for the most serious offences.
Filming will be restricted to sentencing remarks only and no other court user – including victims, witnesses, jurors and court staff – will be filmed.
Victims’ Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird QC welcomes the move and says:
“I have called for greater transparency in the criminal justice system and have had recent discussions with Ministers and the senior judiciary in particular the need to make sentencing remarks clear in their meaning and available in a permanent form for victims, in particular of serious violent or sexual offences
“Most victims (and many defendants) do not understand the sentence handed down by the court. When it happens in the courtroom, if the victim is present, emotions are often running high making it difficult to take it in. But many victims are not present and, in either case, they are reliant on inevitably incomplete explanations in the media the following day.
“Therefore, I wholly welcome this decision to televise sentencing. It is long overdue. It will help all parties to understand the sentence and it will help the wider public understand for themselves how sentences are arrived at. It will also place greater responsibility on the judiciary to reflect on how they explain their reasoning so that the outside world can understand.
“But this must not be the end of the story. For victims, there are still many parts of the criminal justice system where the decisions and actions of practitioners are not explained.
“I want guarantees that victims will be kept informed of the progress in police investigations, decisions around charging and bail will always be fully explained and victims kept informed of appeals and directions hearings. Post-trial, for those victims in the Victims Contact Scheme, I want to see more information shared about the offender’s progress in custody and how the potential risks presented by the offender will be managed in the community.
“Today’s announcement is progress, but there is still a long way to go.”